Wednesday, February 20, 2019

RJ Chesney: “Amateur Revolution” (2019) CD Review

RJ Chesney is a singer and songwriter who is currently based in Los Angeles, though grew up in Georgia and Mississippi. He has been recording for nearly a decade now, and his new album, Amateur Revolution, is collaboration with HP Gundersen (making me wonder if they clicked because of their use of two initials in place of a first name). Interestingly, the album was recorded in Norway and here in Los Angeles, using musicians from both places. The release features all original material, written by RJ Chesney and HP Gundersen (with one track written by just RJ Chesney), and both songwriters play guitar on the album. Gundersen also plays pedal steel. The material is some good solid country and folk music, and RJ Chesney has some talented musicians joining him, including Henrik Paulsen on electric guitar, Jason Hiller on bass (Hiller also co-produced the album), Maesa Pullman on drums, and Chris Joyner on keys and accordion. Most of the musicians also provide backing vocals, as does Heidi Torsvik. There are also some guest musicians on certain tracks.

The album opens with a sweet and fun country love song, “Splendors Of This Earth,” though its opening lines are “You are not my lover/Lovers we were never meant to be.” Yeah, it’s a different kind of love that’s being expressed here, in lines like “Because of you, in the morning I rise” and “I see the world through a baby’s eyes because of you.” How are those for compliments? This track features some nice backing vocals, as well as some wonderful work on pedal steel by Marty Rifkin. This song is dedicated to Abbey Lincoln. “If only you could see how much you mean to me.” That’s followed by another fun and lively country tune, “Pull Down The Moon.” I can’t help but smile while listening to this, even if it tells of the end of a relationship. “Pull down the moon along with you/For I no longer need the view.” This track has a delicious groove and some wonderful stuff on keys.

“A Place Just For Me” is a mellower, pretty tune, featuring some really nice, intimate vocal work. “Sometimes I go to a place/A place that is just for me/A place that only I inhabit/It’s a world built from my dreams.” This song becomes more beautiful as the female vocals are added. This is one of my favorite songs of the album. “But when this life becomes too much/That is when I walk away.” I think this song is going to speak to a lot of us, particularly these days. That’s followed by “Amateur Revolution,” the disc’s title track. It’s a lively, positive, optimistic tune with a full sound, using the word amateur in its original and true sense. “There’s magic, it’s in the air/And a chance of beauty is blooming everywhere.” Then “Do You Remember Me?” has a sweet, gentle, loving sound. I love Marty Rifkin’s work on pedal steel. “Do you remember/How we looked in each other’s eyes/Spoke not a word, not a single word.”

“No Reason Left To Stay” is a delightful, sweet, kind of adorable tune, even if its lyrics describe a sad state: “Alone I walk the streets we walked together/You were right beside me, now you are not there at all/It’s the first burst of summer, but it feels like the last light of fall.” And I appreciate the play with language in the line “Yet another morning has broken my heart, but I won’t show it.” “Death, An Old Widows Peek” has a bit of word play as well, obvious in its title, where the word peek is substituted for its homonym, peak. “At least let an old widow take a peek.” This is a darker, bluesy number. That’s followed by “Baby, You’re Not Dead,” a fun, energetic tune, with a rhythm that chugs along. It’s a song about being haunted by someone who isn’t dead. “I could have stood strong over your grave/With a handful of dirt, a final wave/I could have broken down, cried endless tears/And I wouldn’t be expected to recover for years/But baby, baby, you’re not dead.” “Never Give Up On Love” is a pretty song, with some nice vocal work. Does this song remind you a bit of Paul Kelly? “And I know it feels like you lost everything/Your angels shout, they give you a yell/They say never give up on love.” I can’t help but love this song. Jack Pullman plays jaw harp on this one. By the way, this is the one song that was written by RJ Chesney without HP Gundersen. The album then concludes with another positive number, “Rise Up And Sing.” “Sing to the birds/Sing to the flowers/Sing in the sunshine/And sing in the shower.”

CD Track List
  1. Splendors Of This Earth
  2. Pull Down The Moon
  3. A Place Just For Me
  4. Amateur Revolution
  5. Do You Remember Me?
  6. Proud Of You Child
  7. No Reason Left To Stay
  8. Da Mayor Is On The Scene
  9. Death, An Old Widows Peek
  10. Baby You’re Not Dead
  11. Never Give Up On Love
  12. Rise Up And Sing
Amateur Revolution is scheduled to be released on April 5, 2019.

1 comment: